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Ringmaster's Pain Relief Blog

Eat your broccoli: It may save your life


Back when Bill Clinton was president he expressed his dislike for broccoli, which created a lot of media hype.  Like many people Mr. Clinton was probably repelled by broccoli’s distinctive, slightly bitter, mustard like flavor that creates its pungent taste.  This flavor comes from glucosinolates, one of broccolis anti-cancer compounds, which can cause pre-cancerous cells to destroy themselves in a process call apoptosis.

This research comes from studies conducted by the Institute of Food Research, showing that when juiced broccoli was added to cancer cells the survival rate was reduced by 95 percent.

Broccoli comes from the cruciferous family of vegetables, which includes cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, bok choy, radish, turnip, mustard greens and broccoli sprouts.  While intact the beneficial compounds found in cruciferous vegetables are not present.  Once the cell-walls of the vegetables are broken down by cutting, juicing or chewing they convert into enzymes that creates an anti-cancer substance called Indole-3-Carbinol.

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, burgeoning evidence shows that changing your diet can reduce your chances of developing cancer.  Up to a third of all cancers are believed to be diet related.  The risk of cancer can be reduced by increasing the amount of fruits and cruciferous vegetables.

Results from the Polish Women’s Health Study revealed an association between cabbage and sauerkraut consumption and the lower risk of breast cancer.   Especially, among women who consumed higher amounts of cabbage that began during adolescence and continued throughout adulthood.

Dorothy Patlak, PhD, from the University of New Mexico, wondered why Polish women had a threefold increase in breast cancer after they immigrated to the United states.  She hypothesized those dietary changes, after moving to the U.S., contributed to the rapid rise in breast cancer.  Pathak,  along with colleagues from Michigan State University and the National Food and Nutrition Institute of Warsaw evaluated the diets of Polish immigrants from Chicago Illinois and Detroit  They determined that women who ate three or more servings per week of raw or short cooked cabbage had significantly reduced cancer risk than women who consumed less than one serving per week.

The sulfur containing compound in cruciferous vegetables is called sulforaphane.  Although found in other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli sprouts contain 2 to 100 more of the cancer fighting compounds.  Sulforaphane is one of the most powerful anti-cancer agents found in cruciferous vegetables.  UCLA researchers found that sulforaphane triggers an increase of antioxidant enzymes in the human airway that may help protect against respiratory inflammation that causes conditions such as asthma, allergic rhinitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Dr. Marc Riedi, the study’s principle investigator, showed that broccoli sprouts offered potent biological effects in stimulating an antioxidant response in humans.  Epidemiological studies (people who study factors that affect health) have consistently linked the plentiful consumption of fruits and vegetables to lowering the risk of developing cancer.  Unfortunately, the majority of vegetable intake consist of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and lettuce which are not as effective in preventing cancer.  In a study published last year, in the food Chemistry Journal, extracts from 34 vegetables were isolated to determine their inhibitory affects on the  proliferation of eight different tumor cell lines.  The extracts from the cruciferous and alliums vegetables, such as onions, garlic, shallots, leeks and chives, are high in beneficial sulfur compounds.  Both classifications of vegetables demonstrated anti-cancer dietary properties.

A group of scientist from John Hopkins University formulated a cream using broccoli sprout extract.  They discovered that the sulphoraphane in the cream boosted the body’s immune system to defend against the ultraviolet radiation of the sun.  Not only did the cream protect the skin cells from sun damage, it allowed the vitamin D from the sun to be absorbed by the skin.

As reported in Bio-Medicine magazine, other scientist at John Hopkins used the chemicals from the broccoli and its related vegetables to help prevent the severe blistering and skin breakage from a potentially fatal genetic disease called epi-dermolysis bullosa simplex (EBS).  Researchers at MIT have determined that cruciferous vegetables help to maintain and preserve memory.  Also, brain damage can be minimized after the occurrence of a stroke.  For smokers, broccoli has been shown to have a protective effect on the lungs.  These findings show promise for people who are having trouble giving up smoking but want to protect their lungs from tobacco carcinogens.  The suforaphanes may also inhibit colon caner, leukemia, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and stomach cancer.

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